Made It Possible: Brian Henwood and Electric Persistence

Facilities manager Brian Henwood reflects on installing Electric Vehicle charging stations at Northrop Grumman’s Azusa, California campus.

By Brian Henwood

In 2018, I accepted the role of Facilities Manager at Northrop Grumman’s Azusa, California, campus. The 71-acre campus, home to roughly 1,200 employees, is tucked against the San Gabriel Mountains, an hour east of Los Angeles. As Facilities Manager, I’m responsible for ensuring our campus infrastructure is able to support Azusa’s business operations — including state-of-the-art manufacturing and test facilities for our spaced-based sensor programs — and our employees.

Azusa is a campus with a large Electric Vehicle (EV) population; with just over 100 EV drivers, nearly 10% of the campus drives an EV. Yet, with only ten functioning EV charging stations, our campus had a woefully inadequate amount of EV chargers. If any of our employee EV drivers were in need of a recharge before hitting the highways home, they were added to the queue through a complex email distribution list, hoping their turn would come up before the end of the work day. It was becoming untenable, which really drove my persistence to find a solution.

A older white gentleman standing with arms crossed next to an electric vehicle charger station.

But the cost to purchase and install an adequate number of charging stations to serve our EV commuters was simply not reasonable, I was told.

“It’s been looked into.”

“We don’t have enough capital.”

“It’s too expensive.”

I heard the same lines closing this door over and over again. I knew a solution was out there; it would just take some creativity and persistence to find it.

I decided to meet with my Southern California Edison (SCE) representative — our local electric company — who told me they had a program, Charge Ready, that could be exactly what we needed to bring Azusa’s EV charging vision to life.

As the Azusa campus resides within an economically disadvantaged area, we were eligible for 50% off the cost of each charge station and, thanks to a strong relationship with our charge station vendor, I was ultimately able to receive an additional discount. SCE would also cover the cost of the construction and permitting, estimated at just over $775,000. Between that and the discounted stations, we were able to save over $1,000,000 — which brought the cost of the charge stations into our budget.

Before signing a contract, our next step was to work with the City of Azusa for their permission to use SCE as our utility provider, rather than use the municipality’s power grid, as this was the only way we could participate in the Charge Ready program.

Our campus is nestled into a small neighborhood of homes and schools, a stone’s throw away from the 210, a major highway. We’ve always worked to minimize our environmental impact while being good neighbors — partnering in the community to do whatever we can to make things a little cleaner and a little less strenuous on our limited resources.

It was thanks to this long-standing relationship with the City of Azusa — which recognized the importance of this initiative and granted us permission to participate in SCE’s Charge Ready program — that we were ultimately able to provide this service to our employees.

So, the contract was set, however we were still not out of the woods. Issues seemed to keep popping up that threatened our timeline and pushed construction into California’s rainy season.

Through it all, the team of Northrop Grumman and SCE employees worked tirelessly. I lost count of the times I drove into work thinking the rain had cancelled another day of construction, only to see everyone out there, digging in the mud.

On June 23, 2020, the ribbon was cut and the new EV charging station lot — consisting of 66 stations — was open for business. We also installed additional stations near the front of the main campus entrance for ADA parking accommodations, and we are slated to add more stations in our guest parking, giving our site a total of 76 EV charging stations.

Providing EV support to our employees demonstrates that, as a company, we do the right thing by protecting the planet.  On average, for every gas-powered vehicle we replace with an EV, we reduce CO2 emission by 7,300 pounds annually. So, in theory, our EV population at the Azusa site alone has reduced C02 usage by 369 tons… and counting.  

I have heard of at least a dozen employees that were waiting for a better charging situation before they bought an electric car and now, with the installation of our 76 charging stations, they’ve decided to purchase an EV. I feel a great sense of satisfaction knowing they are no longer constrained by charging services; we’ve provided a service that gives our employees the freedom to make their own statement with regard to environmental awareness and the vehicles they choose to drive.

It took a lot of invested people working together to ensure this program’s success. If we had believed in the “we can’t” or “it’s not feasible,” we would have missed the opportunity to take advantage of this program. This project proves that respectful persistence — knowing when not to take ‘no’ for an answer — can really make a difference.

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